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Nearly Half The World's Civilian Guns Are In The U.S.

Monterey Park. Orlando. Las Vegas. Newtown. Parkland. San Bernardino. Uvalde. Nashville. Louisville. Ubiquitous gun violence has left few places unscathed over the decades. Still, many Americans hold their right to bear arms, enshrined in the Constitution, as sacrosanct. Second Amendment critics say that right threatens another: The right to life. America’s relationship to gun ownership is unique, and its gun culture is a global outlier, CNN reports. The U.S. is the only nation in the world where civilian guns outnumber people. There are 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey (SAS). The Falkland Islands – a British territory in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, claimed by Argentina and the subject of a 1982 war – is home to the world’s second-largest stash of civilian guns per capita. With an estimated 62 guns per 100 people, its gun ownership rate is almost half that of the U.S. Yemen – a country in the throes of a seven-year conflict – has the third-highest gun ownership rate at 53 guns per 100 people.


While the exact number of civilian-owned firearms is difficult to calculate due to a variety of factors – including unregistered weapons, the illegal trade and global conflict – SAS researchers estimate that Americans own 393 million of the 857 million civilian guns available, which is around 46% of the world’s civilian gun cache. About 44% of U.S. adults live in a household with a gun, and about one-third own one personally. Some nations have high gun ownership due to illegal stocks from past conflicts or lax restrictions on ownership, but the U.S. is one of only three countries in the world where bearing arms is a constitutional right, according to government Prof. Zachary Elkins of the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Comparative Constitutions Project. The ownership rate in the other two – Guatemala and Mexico – is almost a tenth of that in the United States. The gun debate in those countries is less politicized, Elkins said. In contrast to the U.S., Guatemala and Mexico’s constitutions facilitate regulation, with lawmakers more comfortable restricting guns, especially given concerns around organized crime. In Mexico, there’s only one gun store in the entire country – and it’s controlled by the army.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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